December 15, 2014 (Trenton, NJ) – A bill to authorize the medical option of aid in dying in New Jersey passed another hurdle today. One week after an initial hearing on the legislation, the New Jersey Senate Heath, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee voted to release the bill without recommendation. The legislation can now be brought to the floor for a full Senate vote.
Today’s vote in favor of New Jerseyans’ rights to choose aid in dying comes on the heels of the passage of the bill in the full Assembly last month.
State Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney has joined Senator Nicholas P. Scutari as a prime sponsor of the legislation.
“The New Jersey legislature moved one step closer to honoring the will of the people and passing Death with Dignity legislation,” said Barbara Lee Coombs, President of Compassion & Choices. “We thank these lawmakers for moving deliberately to empower their constituents, and for their dedication to ensuring care and peace for people close to the end of life.”
With polls showing that 63 percent of New Jersey residents support death with dignity, the Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult the choice to request a prescription for life-ending medication that would be self-administered by the patient in order to reduce suffering at life’s end.
Dozens of aid-in-dying supporters from around the state travelled to the State House to champion the measure and to support other advocates who offered testimony before the Committee.
Rapid passage of the bill through the full Assembly, and now the Senate Committee, mirrors the momentum behind similar legislation around the country. Aid in dying is now authorized in five states, including Vermont where it was approved by legislative action in 2013.
“Witnessing the painful manner in which my two sons died reinforced my belief in end-of-life choices…,” testified Delores Lewis, a senior citizen advocate in Newark, NJ. “As a society, we must give terminally ill, suffering individuals the right to decide to end their own lives in a peaceful manner, with their family and loved ones by their sides.”
Compassion & Choices, a national non-profit organization committed to improving care and expanding choice at the end of life, is a leading advocate of aid-in-dying legislation in New Jersey and around the country.